This past weekend I attended the second running of the Tower of Terror 13k. You can find my thoughts on last year’s race here but for those who want the quick and dirty summary, last year’s event really stunk. It was poorly executed and lacked communication between Cast Members and the organizing group as well as Cast Members and guests. It was an unfortunate disappointment and I know many wrote off next year’s edition based on the 2007 debacle.
The good news is the 2008 running of the race was far better than 2007. Admittedly, that isn’t saying a whole lot since it would be very difficult to be worse than the 2007 edition. First and foremost, there was much better communication all around. Most Cast Members I ran into knew of the event’s existence (something that wasn’t happening a whole lot in 2007) and the Cast was on top of the night’s events. Let’s start though with the very beginning a few days before the event where guests had to pick up their runners packets and/or tickets to the after party. Last year, this was held at once at Pleasure Island where there was one enormous line for runners and partygoers alike. It was a logistical nightmare since the line to simply get in to register was so long and needlessly so. This year, Disney moved the registration point to the convention center at Coronado Springs where guests could go to a designated room to register to run or pick up party tickets. Lines were quick and the process was easy. While the Pleasure Island location last year had a nice theme to it and Coronado did not, I felt overall much more satisfied with the 2008 go-around. The only complaint I could make was getting to Coronado is a bit of a pain compared to getting to Pleasure Island but it’s an issue I can tolerate.
The race itself started off similar to last year. A large pre-race area was set up in the lower portion of the Cast Member parking lot at the Studios. When you entered, you walked through a dark and eerie entranceway that played creepy Halloween-meets-Twilight Zone music. After entering, you would find large “hotel registries” on a wall to sign your name. This was a nice touch and the sort of thing you’d expect to find at a Disney race. As far as the pre-race activities, there was a DJ playing up-tempo music with plenty of space for all the runners. There were temporary tattoos runners could use as well as booths offering running supplies and a charity opportunity. Near the starting line there were corrals for runners based on their estimated time. This was a major improvement from last year that many runners commented as a welcomed addition. The corrals were a bit smaller than they should have been, but it certainly helps to keep the slower runners behind the faster ones.
The race seemed to go off without a hitch and I did not encounter any people complaining about the course. Meanwhile, the Studios was open to party goers starting at 10pm. For the first two hours of the party, the park was basically empty and Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, Toy Story Midway Mania, The Great Movie Ride, Star Tours and Muppetvision 3D were open. Considering the average wait for just Toy Story during the day can get close to (and exceed often) 2 hours, being able to walk on Toy Story multiple times was a welcome surprise. Given the addition of Toy Story and Muppets this year, I felt crowds were much more spread out and the event overall a real success. By 1am (3 hours into the event), the wait at Toy Story was only 40 minutes. Considering it only cost $30 to attend the party and ride all those rides at will for 4 hours, it was a real deal for anyone looking to get a lot of face time with the headliner attractions at the Studios.
A major problem from last year was communication and I feel like it’s been improved quite a bit this year. One major problem related to communication (or lack thereof) was Disney closing nearby roads before the race. This lead to many problems in 2007 for people to get to the race on time since there wasn’t notice the roads were going to close. This year it was well advertised that the roads around the Studios would be closed and the runners (and the race) were able to start on time. I must give Disney and the race organizers a pat on the back for improving quite a bit and doing a good job with improving on last year’s pitfalls.
Overall, the Tower of Terror 13k was a terrific event that if you are a fan of running at a Disney race, I think you would enjoy. It’s a good mix of serious runners and casual runners and a great event to cut your teeth on if you’d like to start running in foot races. There were plenty of enthusiastic attendees who dressed up in costumes that added a nice touch to the event. For those with no interest in running, you should really consider the party event simply for a few hours with not long lines at all. There is no official word if the event will return for 2009 but I’d like to see the Tower of Terror 13k return once more because I think Disney has fixed many of their errors from the first year and this could become a great annual event for all to attend.